It’s been a long time since I wrote something very personal at The Slog. These days, those who would destroy everything that’s good in our world don’t factor the idea of we the People having personal lives – that is, feelings and skeletons and foibles and fears that are self-regarding and thus none of their business. Personal as this post is therefore, its ramifications and lessons are macro in their nature.
The Pentagon Papers is a film from the Spielberg stable starring Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep. It was released four years ago and is the story of how (chiefly) the Washington Post with help from the New York Times and its Secret State whistleblower Dan Ellsberg revealed just how hopelessly bankrupt and mendacious the Washington policy on continued prosecution of the Vietnam War was.
I was in the US at the time – albeit briefly – and as a keen student of American political processes, I got immediately wound up in Dick Nixon’s controlling attempt to ban the publication of the Top Secret papers Ellsberg stole in the public interest. So in watching the film for the first time last night on Netflix, I was taking an emotional journey back through half a century….and into a better, more principled world. From Blair and Obama onwards, élites and their cynically relativist creatures have been trying to tell us that the world has always been amorally nasty – and we have always been prepared to accept extreme law-breaking psychos operating to protect us from mortal enemies. That is a lie – flagrantly used, for example, by this infamous global social media fakery during 2020 – and it lies at the heart of how the Shadowy People are trying to cement a Great Reset in their favour today.
The film itself is exceptionally well made – great tension, brilliant cutting and superbly period atmophere – but in the final analysis, it fails completely to demonstrate how far American civic and constitutional values have been first of all perverted in the Brechtian sense of the “good lie”, and then lost in a fever of media vengence orchestrated by the very media it hero-worships. The Pentagon Papers fails in those regards, because that was never its intention in the first place.
The dialogue is excruciatingly peppered (and accurate) with high-sounding adages about holding power to account, the importance of ‘in the public interest’, and the freedom of the press. It’s crucially important for younger Sloggers to grasp that the NYT and WaPo splashed with these papers even though they equally condemned the dissembling conduct of both Republican and Democrat administrations. That’s the central point: there was an element here of ‘Get Nixon’ (the film ends with a cop discovering the Watergate Break-in) but the motivation of Ben Bradlee and his owner was – overwhelmingly – to defend the principles of the American Republic.
Fast-forward five decades, and cut to an ECU of me blubbing at the end of the movie. The triumphalist end of the film had nothing to do with that very wound-up emotional reaction. On the contrary: the tears were for Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep and all the other leading players in the production (including Spielberg himself) who acquiesced in – nay, positively supported – the villainous attack on President Trump. Whatever you think of Trump as a person (I’m not a fan) he showed far greater desire to defend and protect the American People than either Clinton or Obama did….and, if early signs are anything the go by, President Biden is ever likely to.
My tears were for a lost objectivity, a creeping pc conformism, and a massively diluted ability to tell unprincipled political opportunism from higher constitutional values.
The very newspapers heralded for their actions in 1971 today routinely engage in pernicious and abysmally researched attacks on everyone who comes right out and says, “Trump a Russian agent? Show me the evidence”.
And therein lies the tragedy of it all. If the Washington Post had not beome a publicly quoted company – because Big is Good, right? – would it have followed the Unelected State line as slavishly as it has? Whatever happened to the New York Times that protected Ellsberg – would it today publish Ukrainian information showing what Biden & Son have really been at in that unfortunate country? In half a century, both mastheads have traded hero status for the influence that comes with being top-class hookers engaged in the top-down brainwashing of innocent voters.
What a hateful, McCarthyite thing Hollywood celebrity has become.
Finally, I ask you to consider what those two newspapers might have done with the Wikileaks of Julian Assange. As with Trump, I have equivocal feelings about Julian Assange: my nose tells me (along with my bladder contents) that Mr Assange is something of a born martyr who is a tad muddled here and there. But to quote another man of flawed nature, he truly is “a butterfly broken on the wheel”.
All Assange has done is leak the Truth as represented by the privately scheming emails and dossiers of the powerful. Unlike mine, their personal goals are entirely other-regarding. So for me, his headgear is at worst off-white.
On January 3, 1973, Ellsberg was charged under the Espionage Act of 1917 along with other charges of theft and conspiracy, carrying a total maximum sentence of 115 years. Because of governmental misconduct and illegal evidence-gathering – and the brilliant defence of Leonard Boudin and Harvard Law School professor Charles Nesson – Judge William Matthew Byrne Jr. dismissed all charges against Ellsberg on May 11, 1973.
Compare that to the internationally condemned and unhuman treatment of Assange – not least by my own disgraceful govrnment. European media encouragingly hail the decision not to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the US. Personally I bitterly regret that the UK judge’s verdict held that his leaks had “little to do with the protection of journalism and free speech”.
I’ve collected, during half a century, hundreds of North American friends and contacts throughout Europe who share my fears for the future of the rights of individual citizens. I am and have always been an avowed fan of European variety and American guts in the face of bullies.
There is a profound sickness at large in the land. It is an illness of the human thought process, and it is infinitely more deadly than this Coronavirus7 masquerading as Covid19.